When you think of fine dining, the Red Herring is hardly the first establishment that comes to mind. But myths of their magical burgers do exist, so I had to find out for myself if the hype is real. At first I was scared because, of course, any decision to arrive at this Billsville attraction before bar o’clock is widely considered social suicide. My tension was eased when I came up with the brilliant idea of visiting when no other student would be there: any other time during the week. I bravely hid under the guise of an irregular outfit and covertly made my way down the puke-covered alley to this fine establishment.
Upon entering, I immediately noticed a difference. For starters, there was no bouncer at the door checking my ID while hoards of first-year girls bolted past him, eager to find their Prince Charming. Coats were few in number and placed orderly on the hooks, as the architect must have intended. However, the most astonishing difference of all was that the treacherous, narrow passage to the back was no longer barricaded with drunk College students who avoid the more open areas of the bar out of fear being “mainstream” or “part of the crowd.”
Despite these differences there were some familiar traits, which made me feel right at home. The aura of shame and regrettable decisions still permeated the bar, almost as if the 2 a.m. closing crowd was still there. The small rickety tables were still present, but rearranged. The ambiance could only be described as being quaintly trendy with a subtle scent of fermenting Natty Light.
After these observations, I decided it was finally time to try the famed Herring burger. The place was completely empty, which is a big plus if you are trying to get some face time with someone special. Just be really sure you can entertain them for the whole dinner because you really have no other options. Another plus was that you can enjoy their good selection of beers without having to buy that pitcher of PBR for the bros or getting that vodka cranberry inevitably spilled on you.
I found that the price was slightly higher than the Purple Pub, one strike against the establishment. This fault could only be overcome by a superior tasting burger. I also learned that the beef is from a local farm, which apparently matters to some people. My primary concern was simply whether or not the taste could justify the few dollars extra in price. I ordered and was quickly served my meal, another plus of an empty restaurant. It was a thick and juicy burger made of grade A beef from Ioka farms. The garnishes were sparse, but the taste was fierce. From the first bite to the last, I enjoyed an experience similar to a first-year on first First Fridays. I started off extremely aroused and optimistic, not regretting anything as I aggressively engaged the subject, but unfortunately ended with an abundance of napkins, attempting to clean up a mess completely inappropriate for the setting.
I quickly paid the bill, having no problem getting the waiters attention over the non-existent other customers. As I left the Herring, I had the revelation that this was the first time I had left this bar not regretting a single thing, a genuine moment of pride. Once again, I was leaving the Herring unaccompanied by a significant other, but this time there was no need for a confidence-boosting snack bar run with fellow failures. So I ambled down Spring Street, pleased about my full stomach and my money well spent.
In the end all that matters is that basically anything is better than College dining. So if you are willing to spend a few extra bucks on a superior burger and would like a quiet, intimate dining experience then the Red Herring is the place for you. Just make sure you are comfortable with the dive bar setting, and, more importantly, try not to make too many bad life decisions at night so you can actually enjoy the place during the day.